by Charles R. Swindoll
Remember that time you got ticked off trying to find a verse in the Bible and couldn't? That was almost as bad as the day you decided to read a couple of chapters and got hung up on "Nazirite" . . . or scratched your head over "cubit."
These are like hardened, glazed coverings that suddenly obscure our understanding of God's truth. The pick and shovel of good intentions simply will not cut through. Sharper tools than that are needed, believe me!
Listen, you don't have to be a theological brain to dig into God's riches . . . but you do need some mining equipment. These tools are basic to intelligent, meaningful Bible study. They will enable you to find most of the answers you need, and they are as easy to use as your TV guide. There are at least four you should have on hand.
A Bible concordance. It contains an alphabetical index of all the terms found in the Bible, and it comes in handy when you want to put your finger on a particular verse but can only remember a few words in it. It's also invaluable if you want a complete list of all the verses using the same word.
The best concordances available are Robert Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible and James Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. I must also add W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words for you who are serious students, wanting to learn the shades of meaning and theological implications of different New Testament terms.
A Bible dictionary. It is more than a list of words and definitions. It's like a one-volume encyclopedia, containing vital information on people, places, doctrines, customs, and cultural matters. I recommend either Unger's Bible Dictionary(well illustrated, scholarly but readable) or the New Bible Dictionary (contains longer articles on technical subjects).
A Bible atlas. The most popular is Baker's Bible Atlas. Another reliable one isThe Macmillan Bible Atlas, containing over 250 different maps. If you can't afford an atlas, at least purchase a good set of biblical maps.
A Bible commentary. This is a single-volume book that offers comments and insights on every chapter in the Word of God. Hands down, my favorite is The Wycliffe Bible Commentary edited by Pfeiffer and Harrison. It is reliable and well arranged.
Don't delay now. Get those tools you need soon . . . and don't let them rust on you!
It's amazing how a few of the right tools,
when used correctly, can open God's treasures.
Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.